Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Freedom to fly

So, did you survive Christmas? I did, and I'm really, really, really glad that it's over! This is my least favorite time of the year, and somehow I always feel immeasurably better once December 25th is behind me. Yeah, I know. Bah Humbug. Deal with it. We even dodged the tornadoes yesterday. And it's a good thing I didn't go to Bhavana because it snowed on Monday, is snowing today and is forecast to snow over the weekend. I wouldn't have a chance of getting out of there for days after the retreat ends.

From a webcam near Bhavana, on Monday
 However -- I have been making good use of my new cycling machine, and that has really made me feel better. I seem to have more energy, but I also noticed when going out to the mailbox earlier today that my body simply felt looser, more limber, and that can't help but be a good thing. I'm back to my 3x week with the weights, using the bike to warm up and cool down to make the 45 minutes. And then doing longer rides on the other days. Still can't get the heartrate monitor to work, so I dug out my own -- the kind that actually straps around your chest. Surprisingly enough, after 3 years, the battery still works. So I'll use that on my longer rides, now that I know it's working. I'll probably call the company's customer service next week, after the holiday and post-holiday craziness dies down a bit more.

I'm also feeling better because I've had some conversations with one of the nuns in California regarding the bookkeeping help I'm supposed to be doing for them. I've done my part, but communication from their end has been spotty, so I've been limited. Today, after receiving the info I needed yesterday, I balanced 3 bank accounts from September and did some other small stuff for them. This makes me feel better for several reasons: I enjoy the contact with her [indeed all of them, but for most things it's just Ayya Sobhana], it feels good to help them, and it feels good to actually do something worthwhile that requires use of my brain and abilities.

Through all the emails yesterday I discovered a wild hair to try to visit them this summer -- drive back, stay awhile. That would require either putting all my stuff in storage, or just selling most of it, putting some in storage or simply not keeping any more than would fit in my car. I know -- I couldn't make it work last year, why would I want to try it again? Because I am really drawn to be there, and I need to figure out how to make it happen. I expect that driving would make a big difference -- I could take more with me, plus I'd have an escape if I needed one. I could drive to Napa and have lunch with Sylvia from time to time, just to balance things out. And I'd work it out with Ayya Sobhana that I could be the errand person, someone who goes off the property on a regular basis. Lots of errands to be run! I think that might make a big difference, help me ease into the whole thing slowly rather than being thrust in suddenly the way I was in July. And with any luck, I won't have a fresh bit of surgery on my leg or anywhere else that will impede my joy.

I've been wanting to 'fly' for months now. Not literally flying -- just be free of encumbrances that keep me tied down to one spot. I don't know exactly what I want to do with it, but all kinds of possibilities have arisen, including volunteering at monasteries in Asia. Big problem with that is airfare! So -- for now I need to decide the basics about keeping or selling stuff, storing or carrying it with me. I think I could probably leave a few things with my cousin, and let him ship them to me if and when I settle someplace and want them. But, it doesn't have to be decided right now, so I'll just let the thoughts continue to filter through the mind, see what happens. I love having so many possibilities, and I really love the thought of having the freedom to fly.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

She lives!

My goodness. I just dragged my sorry ass, tired body to Rome to the Urgent Care center and had to wait about an hour and a half, then got sent to xray, then back to the doc. Temp of 101+, but no signs of pneumonia. By the time I got back home and got the prescription filled, a grand total of 4 hours had elapsed. That's not good for somebody whose body is already drained from illness.

The cayenne seemed to live up to its reputation as a natural expectorant -- I started taking it Tuesday night when the congestion first hit my bronchials, and stuff was coming up yesterday. That's pretty fast. I mix it with honey, or in chicken stock, so it's not too unpleasant. Fortunately I have a high tolerance for pepper heat.

I felt so bad last night that before I went to bed I sent an email to my cousin in Rockmart, asking him to call me this morning to see if I was alive. I have a real fear of going to sleep while this stuff is rampaging through my body, and never waking up. It would take days -- maybe weeks -- for anybody to miss me. Probably the smell would reach the neighbors. Such a nice thought.  But, it helped me to rest better and I sent Kenny another email first thing this morning telling him I was alive and kicking.

So, as you can see I'm still whining. I don't make a good patient.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chocolate makes everything bettr

Waaaaaahhhhhhhh! I'm sick, and I hate to be sick! Whether it's a cold or the flu I don't know -- but some chest congestion popped up last night before I went to bed and the lungs are still not happy. But then, they haven't been truly happy since the time I had scarlet fever when I was six years old.  I seriously believe that in the end, I'll die from bronchitis or pneumonia, not from any disease. Sometimes, when it gets really bad, I almost beg to just die and get it over with, but so far, that hasn't happened. Obviously.

So I feel awful, my chest hurts, breathing is not easy, blah, blah, blah. The host and hostess for our meditation on Sunday were both sick -- he had a cold, she ended up with viral bronchitis the following day, so it's possible that I picked up their bug, but on the other hand, it sure got me fast if that's what it was. I had a temp this morning, but Advil seems to have taken care of that. The house is steamy from more chicken broth on the stove. Good old smelly Vicks on the chest. Staying warm -- and grateful the weather is warm so the house isn't freezing.

I've been forcing fluids all day -- chicken stock with garlic, peppers and such. Lots of water. Herbal tea, no real solid food other than a luscious chocolate cake I baked just because I felt sorry for myself. A small one. Lots of TV. One thing I learned through countless asthmatic bronchitis attacks as a child, teen and adult is that lying down just doesn't cut it.  And of course, my body just wants to lie down and rest. Thank goodness I had enough stuff in the house to eat today so going to the store wasn't a necessity. Not that I've wanted to eat much anyway, but I do believe that nutrition helps a body fight whatever is attacking it, so I try to put some healthy stuff down. Not counting the chocolate cake, although that certainly made me feel immeasurably better in the short term.

I gotta get well so I can head north -- but that's a week and a half away, so with any luck this thing will be gone by then.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spirulina, turmeric, cinnamon and adventure

I'm halfway through yet another change in my exercise intensity, and despite the myriad of issues going on inside my head, I have to say that the body is doing much better. I've been feeling more energetic and sleeping better for awhile, so I thought I'd look back on my health journal to see what might have caused it. Now, this is far from scientific -- just has to do with what's happening in my own body -- but the first time I noted that I was feeling better was November 10, which was two days after I began taking what has become a daily 'green drink'. It's basis is powdered spirulina, to which I add turmeric and cinnamon  for their own health benefits. Nothing else changed, although I did up my Vitamin C allotment considerably that day, also. But two days later I had the energy and interest to begin exercising, and the body is responding with good energy every day. Take it for what you will. I don't get enough green veggies in my diet, despite having some in the garden, so I needed these carotenes. (note: Chinese or cassia cinnamon is toxic so do your research and take small amounts. Most grocery store cinnamon is cassia, because it's cheaper. True Ceylon cinnamon is harder to find, pricier, but better for your health)

Back to the exercise changes -- remember when I second-guessed that Greg would have had me focus the workout on one muscle group, if I wanted to do it 6 days per week? I didn't think I had enough equipment or knew enough exercises to do that, so for two weeks I repeated my 3x week routine to make the 6 days. But, a little Google research showed me all kinds of new exercises to add to the existing routines, so now it's 30 minutes of push/chest, then push/triceps, then pull/back, then pull/biceps, then legs, then shoulders. This is the 3rd day, and I can only repeat -- it ain't easy! Not that I want it to be or expected it to be. Oddly enough, I'm not feeling as sore as I thought I would on the muscles I've used so far -- just twinges here and there. This old body is surprisingly strong, for its age and flab.

I read an article this morning that pretty much sums up what's eating me mentally.  This guy retired, got fat and unhealthy and bored, decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Seriously. Now he does extreme sports all over the world. The whole article is worth reading, but this paragraph sums up exactly how I feel:

“I lasted about a year and then got really depressed,” he told NBC News. “I was 50 pounds overweight, I smoked cigars, I probably drank too much. I needed a challenge, a whole lifestyle change.” 

I'm not 50 pounds overweight, I don't smoke anything and I don't drink much, but I need the lifestyle change. Big differences between me and this guy: he's 10 years younger and he has the money to chase dreams like this. Now, I wouldn't want to do what he's doing. I'm not quite that extreme. But I'd love to chase around the world riding a bike or hiking here and there, exploring the world. Since I don't have the money to do that, I need a lifestyle change that can be done on my meager budget -- or one that also includes an income of some kind.

So now I get to walk to the library, add to the exercise time for the day. Happy day, y'all!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Adventure calls...

I've been undergoing some kind of personal crisis of the emotional sort over the past few months, if not longer. It's hard to tell just when these kinds of things begin, because we often don't really notice them until they gain some strength. I think it's fair to say that this one began last December at Bhavana, when all kinds of stuff was coming up and I eventually reached a point where I could no longer keep the crap to myself and let it rise to the surface at the wrong moment thereby harming others, which of course goes against every precept in Buddhism, thereby adding even more crap to what was already surging up. Instead of staying to deal with it in meditation, I chose to run, and life hasn't been the same since.

I expect that in the end, this may be a good thing, depending upon how I eventually find a way to deal with it. About a month ago my monthly newsletter arrived from one of my favorite sages, Dr. Mary Ann Iyer.  The topic was change, and she has this on her blog Living in Harmony on September 5,but I somehow didn't read it as meaningful to me at the time. Shows how much difference a month or two can make! It's too long to copy and paste here but I'll synopsize and use a few quotes. 

She talks about the butterfly story: "when a caterpillar hides itself in a chrysalis to metamorph into a butterfly, it decomposes completely.  From this soup of apparently random cells come progenitor cells, called imaginal cells, which find one another in such a way that a new cohesive pattern is formed.  A butterfly.  In the cosmos is contained the plan – the blue print – for this new form to take shape." She goes on to say that "the original caterpillar cells put up a fight.  There is some initial struggle when the newly christened imaginal cells reach out to find one another in that soup.  Some are killed in this battle.  Eventually,  they do coalesce, and that which is to be does emerge...."  and then later..... "I imagine personal and societal change must surely follow this same pattern.  If you are experiencing discord and turmoil in your life; if you know change needs to happen but you feel yourself clinging to some outmoded past, give your imaginal cells a boost."  

Often, so I'm told, a Buddhist meditator experiences much the same thing before attaining some kind of seriously wonderful breakthrough. So, I've been convinced for months that this is a temporary crisis that is leading up to good things, once the change occurs. I also know from experience that I generally have to fall really low during this struggle before the pendulum will begin to swing upwards once more. I'm not there yet -- although I'm headed there, certainly.  So, that's been the state of my mind for almost a year now, and you should be very thankful you're not living inside my mind! It's not fun, and yet I can see the soup and the struggle for those new imaginal cells to win through, and I know that everything changes.  Everything. Eventually.

So, all of that is to say that part of what I'm figuring out through all this is that I'm healthy enough to live another 20 years, and that I really don't look forward to that unless some kind of major change happens in my life. I cannot think of living -- surviving, really -- for 20 more years with the life I have, where the major highlight of any given day is a book to read and a few TV shows to watch.  There has to be more, and lately I've been thinking that maybe that something more has to do with another adventure of some kind. I can't be more specific because I don't know any more than that. Last night I watched a documentary on the Appalachian Trail which, of course, brought up the desire once more to hike it. All if it. It could be done -- I have time to get in shape and I think the body would  hold up. Not so sure about holding up emotionally. Let's face it, I had a hard time with the daily ups and downs and hills and cold and such at the Hermitage for two weeks. Can I get myself psyched enough to do this? Plus, I no longer have any backpacking gear, and probably couldn't afford to buy any. I'd sure love to see some of the places on the Georgia section again -- tears popped up more than once during the film, because I love that Trail with some kind of weird emotional attachment. I spent almost 10 years of my life being a caretaker for part of it, and hiking all of the Georgia section many times over, often alone. In fact, I took two 5-day hikes alone to do both the northern and southern portions.

But is this the real adventure that is calling me? Traveling by bike is almost equally of interest. But I can't do either of these full time for the next 20 years, let's face it. Either would change my life in more ways than one (judging from the experience of my 2-month solo bike ride through the Colorado Rockies in 1983), and yet both would be temporary adventures. What then? What is the long-term change that needs to happen? Moving to Mexico? Still on the table, but seemingly out of the question financially. Asheville? Beaufort? But, I'm reminded that just moving isn't the answer -- I'd still just be reading books and watching TV, unless there's a bigger change.

I don't have any answers. Just lots of questions. And once more, be thankful that you're not inside what passes for my mind during all this questioning. It never stops.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

It's all about the food.....

Thanksgiving morning, Yosemite. Pretty cool! (From the webcam)

Actually, it's all about the wait for the moment. The chicken is in the oven roasting away, the sweet potato souffle and cornbread dressing are waiting in the wings to be cooked once the chicken comes out.  Leeks and rosemary, garlic and lemon are in and under the chicken in its roasting pot. Life is good.

I spent some time this morning wondering why I go to the effort of making even a pseudo Thanksgiving dinner every year, since I'm not much for celebrating holidays. I decided that for me, it's really all about the food, and I'm guessing I'm not alone in that.  Thanksgiving is a perfect excuse to cook things I wouldn't ordinarily cook and eat things that inspire more than a little guilt. Actually, no guilt at all at the moment, since it's only once a year. And I did my workout already this morning. So now, I can just wait, enjoy the luscious aromas, think about the things I have to be thankful for in my life, relax and read a book to the tune of some righteous jazz on the radio (from Seattle).

I don't have to be alone -- had a couple of invitations from relatives -- but in my old age I simply don't enjoy going out amongst crowds of people I don't know at all or barely know, and try to make conversation with them when we don't have much in common. I like them, the ones I know. I like them a lot and have fond childhood memories of times with them. But the ones I know make up about 1% and I just don't do well with conversational chit chat. Never have, and at this age, probably never will. Get me in a crowd of people and I shrink off into a corner somewhere and suffer through, wondering when I can graciously make my exit. Why bother? It's no fun for me, and not fair for the other people involved. I've been alone for so long I guess I've learned to like it, maybe even have become something of a hermit. I expect my early life as an only child in a nomadic family didn't do much to make me anything but a loner.

I'm reminded of something one of the women who passed through the Hermitage in California while I was there in July said. She headed off for her kuti after lunch somewhat apologetic, but commented something to the effect that 'I guess none of us are people-people, or we wouldn't  be here'. I'd never thought of it that way, but recognized that she was right. I like people just fine, but in small doses.

It doesn't help matters that I absolutely hate this time of year.  Christmas carols at Kroger a week ago. Nothing but 'buy this' ads on TV (no, I don't have a TV but the same ads run online during the shows I watch). My birthday a month from today. I won't be a happy camper anytime between now and the first of the year unless I can stay away from as much of the fuss as possible. That's one reason -- maybe the main reason -- I think about going away to a Buddhist center for the last two weeks of December. I enjoy the centers and the meditation and teachings any time of the year, but this time of year it's an escape from the constant commercialism and....... well. Enough said. No need to rant any further.

Hope y'all have a happy thanksgiving, wherever you are and whatever that means to you.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The body feels worked

I've survived my first week of intense exercise. Whew!

I think I mentioned once that I was tired of Curves, wanted more. Last week I surprised some long-unused muscles with a couple of very light workouts, just to wake things up, start off slowly. Then, I devised a particularly masochistic plan. Nine or ten years ago when I lived in Corvallis I joined a local private health club and began working out daily, following the plan offered by the trainer employed by the club. Eventually, I wanted to do more, and eventually made friends with a weightlifter who tended to follow the same schedule I did, daily. Greg was 50-something then, had been into weight lifting and body building most of his life, plus he was a fount of information on nutrition and had garnered plenty of physiology from various scientists at OSU who were clients of his. He'd also recently acquired a personal trainer license. He liked to help people who were interested, and I learned everything I know on the subject from him. At some point I asked and he wrote up a workout program for me, quite different from what you'll get from the basic gym or health club.

Weight lifters don't follow one set of exercises over and over, day after day, the way most gyms tell you to do. Instead of trying to work all muscles every day, or several times a week, they focus on one or two muscle groups during every workout. He set me up with a good schedule of that type, meant to be done 3 times per week. It's a tough schedule. In fact, when I moved to Eugene and joined Gold's Gym, the trainer there took a look at it and exclaimed "You're doing all that?". I was, and I've stayed with that same basic set over the years, even when I was a member at the fancy DAC in Eugene, with really good equipment and trainers. Machines and specifics have varied, but the concept has stayed the same. Day 1, chest and triceps; day 2, back and biceps, day 3, legs and shoulders. I do some abs every day. 

What makes it different this time is that instead of doing it on a 3-times-per-week basis, I decided to do it 6 times per week. And I had to adjust to what I have available to use: my 5# and 12# dumbbells, and an exercise band. I can do a decent job of working all muscles with that. I'm using the 5 pounders a tad more than I used to, and the 12 pounders a tad less, but that'll change with time. Greg used to tell me 'weight doesn't matter'. He just wanted me to 'finish pretty', which meant finishing the sets in good form, not struggling with too much weight. So, I do a lot more reps with the smaller weights, for now. The muscles still get three days of rest between workouts, which should be enough. Now, I know Greg would tell me to focus on only one muscle group in each of those 6 days, instead of doing it this way, but since I'm limited by equipment, this will work. And trust me, the difference in age between 61 and 70 matters!

After a week, I feel good. The body feels worked,  but not sore. Those Curves workouts did help, they were just limited and rather inconvenient. My appetite has definitely increased! I guess that's not surprising, since those stressed muscles want plenty of protein to rebuild and grow. I expect that'll taper off, as time goes by and the body adjusts. And I'm definitely looking forward to a day 'off' tomorrow.

Other than that, and trying to stay warm, not much is happening around here. And that's not all bad.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

From summer netting to winter frost

I think summer has officially left this part of Georgia, as of today. I know, officially it left awhile back, but we've had a beautiful fall that was summer-like. Warm. Sunny. Dry. Nice. No surprise seeing it end today -- it's been in the weather forecast for the last week or more. Still doesn't mean I have to like it....

As a result -- I went out just now and transformed the greens bed from it's summer netting to its winter frostgard -- supposed to get down to freezing in a couple of nights, so I thought I might as well be proactive, even though the plants are all cold tolerant.

I also hung out three suet cakes for the birds yesterday, although I expect it'll take them a couple of days to find them. It generally does. This year, I put one on that wooden clothesline support, so I'll be able to watch them better. The others are way in the back, under the trees, for a little protection.

I tore out all the mustard plants yesterday. I just don't like it! It has a hairy, almost spiny texture, which doesn't make it fun to handle or to eat raw in a salad. And I don't like the taste. Not sure why I planted it again this year, other than that I had the seeds. The lettuce, kale and chard are terrific, however. And the leeks are doing well. Garlic is up and growing like gangbusters -- no cover needed, as it's plenty hardy.

Mexico is looking better every day! Still -- it's rainy and cold in Eugene, so it could be worse. Lousy day for a football game! Not that the Ducks fans will care or notice. They're a hardy bunch, particularly when well-fortified from tailgate parties and hip flasks. Particularly when the Ducks are winning.

Speaking of rain in Oregon -- can you believe this photo is from a webcam? I stumbled across it quite by accident this morning. It almost looks like a painting, probably because of the mist. This is Silver Falls, not far from Salem.

And no, I don't regret leaving Oregon. But I sure don't mind being reminded how beautiful it is.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My latest food addiction

I love Mexican food -- real Mexican food, as opposed to the more Americanized versions available at chain restaurants where everything tastes pretty much the same. Good, but not inspired.

When I was in Bucerias, MX about 5 years ago, the American owners of the little hotel where I stayed sent me to their favorite breakfast place on my last morning there, and told me what to order. Tiny place, lots of cop cars outside (apparently also a favorite of the local gendarmes), patrons a good combination of locals and tourists. I cannot remember the name of the dish I ordered, but it was eggs cooked in a really hot sauce -- your choice of red or green sauce. After I ordered it, a man who I assume was the manager came to me and asked if that was really what I wanted, as if  he wasn't sure I knew what to expect. Guess not a lot of gringas order that dish. I assured him I wanted it and when it arrived, it was delicious, and yes, the sauce was rather spicy, but I love spicy foods. Naturally, refried beans were also on the plate.

Lately, as part of trying to seriously cut back the cost of food, I've been cooking and eating a lot of pinto beans, which thankfully I really like. One morning a week or so ago I decided to semi-replicate the above breakfast, although without the hot red sauce because I've never seen anything in the stores that would fit the bill, other than possibly enchilada sauce. But, home cooking in Mexico is the same as home cooking in this country -- you use what you have and experiment.

Now, I'm just addicted to this, although I don't have it every day because I'm also trying to cut back on eggs. Since it's cool here in the mornings now, I turn my oven on low, put the dish in there to heat. Then, I take pintos I've cooked, toss them into a skillet with a little sunflower oil, make good use of an old-fashioned potato masher and in mere moments I have refried beans. I try to get the egg to come from another skillet at the right time, but don't stress over it since it all goes back into the oven anyway. The red sauce is a jarred casera salsa that works, but isn't right. A few more moments in the oven to melt the cheese and heat the refrigerated salsa, and it's ready to eat. I don't always use cheese, and don't use much of it ever. Sometimes I even have it for lunch or dinner. Yum.

I've got the stuff to make a real Mexican sauce, courtesy of my online 'friend' Rolly, at his wonderful website. Maybe I'll try it today, see how it works. I'll be using a combination of the salsa recipes on this page, to get a smooth sauce that also has some good heat to it. These recipes are the real deal -- from his landlady, I believe it is, in Lerdo, MX. Maybe I'll post photos of my own experiment with this sauce. Juggling the peppers to get the right amount of heat will be the big test.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The birds will like it better

Another change in the garden....

This is the second time I've had to move the birdbath in order to see it. First, it was put in the center of the young rosemary and lavender, but in due time the rosemary took over. So, I moved it back by the blueberries, but now the rosemary has once again grown so tall that I couldn't see the birdbath from the house. It seemed easier to just move it, and the birds will probably like it better here anyway, where they can have a good view of creeping predators. I did it right this time (imagine that!). Took a level out there so both the base and bowl are actually level, or at least mostly so. Still need to move those perennials.

You can't see it, but the garlic is coming up quickly and strongly in the left rear bed, and the greens are doing just great in the left front bed. In fact, I need to harvest some of those soon before they get out of hand. The white cover on the right is over the compost bed, to keep it warmer during the winter. And, that's covered with chicken wire to keep critters from digging at the cloth. Everything is covered with chicken wire or netting, to keep the cats out. I dug up lots of weeds from the walkways on Sunday, but you'd never know it from this photo. Obviously, still lots more to be done.

That's it for excitement today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My neighbor calls it a groundhog...

I first noticed this guy last summer -- or was it spring?

I think he was a good bit smaller then, but wouldn't swear to it. Don't know if he was an orphan or what, but for some reason this critter, which I believe my neighbor calls a groundhog, has made his home under the house of the neighbor on the other side. These entrance holes are under the back stoop/stairs. I haven't seen him there for awhile, thought he'd moved on. Looks to me like he's taking a snooze in the warm sunshine. I saw him (or one of his kin) out in that neighbor's backyard yesterday, looking for food. There's an old apple tree back there that nobody makes use of, so the apples fall and these critters always enjoy that bounty. They apparently nest in the tangle of trees and brush that separate our back yards from those of the neighbors on the next street. Pretty good detail for full zoom, hand-held, cropped and enlarged! Sometimes I like that camera.

Life is slow and dull around here. Cold night last night, but the sun is warming the house nicely and that seems to be a pattern we can expect for awhile. I'm good with that.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday doin's

Look fast -- all that shine will be gone by morning.  I gave the car one of its usual twice yearly washes this morning. The bugs on the front have been bothering me. Remnants of my 3 weeks in South Georgia and coastal South Carolina, the things made the front of the car look pitted and ugly. Now it's all nice and silver again. You'll have to take my word for that because I was flat out too lazy to walk off the porch and take a photo from the front. That would have required shoes.

Aside from that, I've spent time today making a variation of the winter squash soup with lemongrass and coconut milk that I learned to love last winter at Bhavana. This is probably the 4th time I've made it since I returned from that trip. This time, instead of winter squash I used sweet potatoes, because it just sounds good, and will use almond milk instead of coconut milk. He'd made it with almond milk at Bhavana, and it was unbelievably delicious. However, I think I also made another discovery today for added flavor. The stock for the soup has all kinds of spices and herbs and savory stuff like onions and garlic and ginger and cinnamon, plus trimmings from the squash/potatoes. Usually, I do what the recipe directs: let it simmer for 30 minutes, then use it. Today, I opted to just let it simmer for awhile, maybe an hour or so beyond the time when all the stuff was put in, so all those flavors could seriously cook out into the stock, and having just tasted the broth as the soup is cooking, I can tell it made a big difference. Yummy. With almond milk still waiting in the wings. I'd offer up the recipe, but it's a lot of words and I'm too lazy. And, for the first time I now understand the descriptions I'd heard of the wonderful scent of lemongrass. What I've bought in the past didn't have much of a scent -- probably because it had been harvested long before I ever saw it. This time, I harvested some from my own pots, for the first time, and the smell was indeed wonderful as I cut it up. No doubt, that's also adding to the flavor of that broth in a new way. I'm looking forward to dinner, for a taste.

About done, I'd say. Now the question is, to puree or not to puree. Recipe says puree, but at Bhavana they left the squash pieces whole, and it was super. Milk gets added after it's pureed, if I go that far. Or before serving, if I don't puree. Aside from being delicious, this soup is super healthy, filled with nutrition and highly anti-inflammatory. About 10 cloves of garlic, a big piece of fresh ginger (about 3 inches long), 2 jalapeno peppers, plus the other goodies. And fresh lime juice at the very end.

Postscript: pureeing won! And it tastes wonderful. I think I like this variation.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Little by little, winter is creeping in upon us. Not in major ways, despite the little cold spell that's passing through at the moment, but in smaller ones. This morning I lowered the storm windows, raised the upper sash in the back room. Left the kitchen window open, since I'm not yet ready to close the house up completely. Some warmer weather will return, surely, before frost hits.

Out in the garden.....

The results of my work over the past couple of weeks -- all four beds cleaned of weeds and/or summer plants, fertilized, planted or made ready for planting or..... read on. There's plenty of more work to be done out here, but my energy is pretty much limited each day, so progress is slow.

Things are rather dull, I'm afraid, but it's all in transition, one way or another. Yesterday I pulled all of the basil plants and the tomato from the bed on the front right, trimmed the thyme and lemon thyme way back. The bed on the front left has little greens seedlings and a few leftover (but still good) leek plants. The winter frost-gard cover is waiting in the wings to cover the hoops when needed. The left rear is ready, waiting to be planted with garlic again. I wasn't going to plant garlic because I felt I would likely not be here to harvest it, but then who knows -- so I'll plant it anyway.

The right rear -- to be left vacant but with a twist. After years of piling kitchen waste in bins far in the rear, I've decided upon a layering compost experiment in this last bed. Dug all the weeds out, have started dumping my indoor compost into that bed one small hole at a time, covering it, moving on to another hole each time, and letting nature take its course. The earthworms and other soil critters should love it. Basically, it'll be one giant worm bed. And I won't have to walk so far or work so hard to a) dump the compost bin in the first place and b) make use of the resultant compost if I desire to do so next spring. The process can be rotated from bed to bed each year, if I'm here to do it.

This lone echinacea plant keeps putting forth new buds and blooms, making a welcome but somewhat incongruous sight amidst all the colorless surroundings. I have a vague idea of moving these perennials into the center of this bed soon, then transplanting some oregano and chives from beneath the runaway rosemary and eventually turning this into a strict herb bed, surrounding the perennials.

Winter also means that I'm going to start needing to think about bringing these lemongrass plants inside during the cold weather.  Where to put them, what to put them on for drainage, and such stuff.  I plan to harvest some of them soon -- but they'll just grow back.

So -- tis a bit of a dreary day here, inside and out. I was planning to attend my monthly half-day meditation session but had to cancel because I just don't feel so hot. That makes two months I've missed (last time because I was out of town). These are some of the only friends I have that are close by, and it would have been good to see them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

When a picture says 1000 words

This has to be one of the saddest photos I've ever seen. The great, beautiful Yosemite Falls with no water! I've seen it with a mere trickle -- in fact the first time I saw it back in 1976 the flow was pretty meager, unimpressive. I've been seeing this on the website for weeks now. This is the upper falls. Compare this with the following photos taken by me on different visits.
Mother's day, 1979 or 1980. A surprise overnight dusting of snow coated the whole valley. It was spectacular. Pretty sure this is also the upper falls. For some reason, it's hard to get a shot of both the upper and lower falls together. Or, it must be, since I don't have one and the Conservancy camera also only captures one.

These two were both taken in 1996, on my slow, scenic and meandering trip back to the west coast from Georgia. On the right is lower Yosemite Falls. On the left, a close-up of upper Yosemite Falls taken from somewhere near the top of the lower falls. I hiked to the top of the upper falls that day -- lengthy, hot and steep. This side trip into the misty shade was a welcome respite, as well as being spectacular. As you might imagine, the views from the top were spectacular. Most surprising to me was the narrow width of the stream that produces all this water. You could have hopped across it, and some did. Personally, I opted against that, too well aware of the hard landing far, far below. I'm not afraid of much, but I also try not to be totally stupid. 

Better days will return to Yosemite, I'm sure. Droughts, like floods, don't last forever. But it's sad to see in a place that, to me, is utterly magical.

Here in north Georgia, we have rain. Started yesterday, rained all night and has rained most of the day, so far. Looking at radar maps, it's not going to stop anytime soon. But, it's a nice rain -- soft and gentle, the kind that (supposedly) sinks in, rather than running off. No storms along for the ride. I say 'supposedly' because when I went out to my car this morning to go to Curves and the library, the sidewalk was standing in water so I moved over to my lawn and that was even worse! Lots of standing water everywhere, mostly in low spots. The seedlings in my new greens bed will love it -- and so will the earthworms and other critters that live out there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Small space living

There's a lot of talk out in the media these days about living in small spaces.

Check out this link to a CNN story about people around the country 'dropping out', living in small spaces frequently off the grid, in cities and in the boonies. One thing they seem to have in common is that they don't have mortgages or utility costs, or the associated stresses that go with earning enough money to pay for these things. They all have incomes -- none are living off the government -- but they need much less money to live and they enjoy the freedom to provide their own food and be self sufficient.

Solo retreat in Vermont, from NY Times article

I could get into that. My needs are few and I'd love to be without the stress of making ends meet each month. It's not likely to happen with me at this stage of life, but it would be doable, certainly. In fact, it would also provide me with my own long-term solo retreat, such as described in this NY Times online article. I'd love to do one of these, too.
It dawned on me yesterday that I have happily lived in a really small space. My apartment in Eugene was small -- 575 s/f. But even smaller than that was a houseboat I lived on for awhile in the Oakland Estuary, off San Francisco Bay. This wasn't a houseboat built for mobility -- it was a simple wooden houseboat built for living aboard. It was moored in a marina across the estuary from Jack London Square, where my lullaby was the quiet whisper of water slapping against the hull and dock, and the tinkling of sailboat rigging tapping against masts. The movement was constant, but gentle. Wonderful for sleeping!

I don't remember the dimensions or square footage -- it's been many years. But, it was tiny. I'd guess about 10 feet wide by maybe 20 feet long. The bedroom, at the rear of the structure, was only wide enough for a double mattress (wisely built, marine-style, high atop plenty of storage drawers), a door and some space on the other side of the door.

In the middle of the boat was a tiny U-shaped kitchen on one side of a walkway [behind the wall from the narrow end of the bed], and a small bath on the other side. The front portion was living space -- again, tiny, but sufficient. I hung a big double-size rattan swing from the rafters, piled it with pillows, and spent much quality time lying there reading, swaying gently with the motion of the water. Decks and docks and water provided outdoor space. It was peaceful, easy living that appealed to the water sprite/sailing enthusiast that was me in those days.

The kuti huts I've stayed in aren't a lot smaller, although lacking in such things as running water and electricity that I'd want for long-term living. I do like a few modern conveniences -- a shower, a toilet, a tiny kitchen. I could live without an internet connection, but don't think I'd like it -- especially if I were out in the boonies all alone!

Who knows what my future will bring -- not I, certainly! I can make plans, come up with ideas, but I can't control much of anything. I can only be open to whatever changes happen, and 'go with the flow'.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

This and That

The week has been a quiet one, made up of smaller things, of greater and lesser importance.

I've caught up on sleep -- even began sleeping later in the morning, which is a good thing that's most unusual for me. I've made efforts in the garden, trying to get one bed ready to plant winter greens, and soon. Made final progress on that one today by borrowing my neighbor's wheelbarrow, making moving compost from the rear of the yard into the garden a much easier process. Topped it off with a bag of Black Kow for good measure.

My computer has been doing some weird stuff on and off for some time, and it's getting a bit old, so I've been wondering what to do about protecting my data in case it crashes. Since I'm not overly computer-savvy and don't like messing with them any more than I have to, I finally opted to go with Carbonite on-line backup and signed up for a 15-day free trial on Monday. It took a day or two for the first backup to be completed, as they had warned that it would. My genealogy data wasn't automatically backed up, but after their backup was completed it was easy to go in and add that data file to the backup. I don't change it very often, but at least I know all those years of work are safe. It's been interesting to watch the little 'bug' that shows how recently backup has happened -- could be 2 seconds ago, could be a few hours. And it's all done without me having to do anything, and if this machine dies, or I get another one, it will be simple to restore the data [not counting any issues with going from Windows XP to a newer operating system, which shouldn't be too big a deal]. The cost is only about $60/year for the basic service, and that's all I need.

Yesterday I made my semi-annual visit to the dermatologist, with only 7 nasty zaps with the dreaded freezer. Generally it's closer to 10, so this was good.  When I arrived home, I found the final draft of my teacher's [Sayalay Susila] book that I've been working on for a year or more, in my email box. It's in final publication form but she's asked me to do a final proofreading before publication. Corrections can still be made if needed, and I've found a few.  It should be on Amazon soon, and I can't wait to get a hard copy. Yes, I know. I've read it over and over during this process and am reading it again now, but it's a complex book and I get more from it each time. Anyway, I can't sit and savor it as I'd like -- just need to read it for spelling and grammar. I prefer sitting and savoring a real book anyway, as opposed to words on a computer screen.  For any of you who are interested, I'll be sure to let everyone know once it finally hits Amazon.

Also yesterday, while I was in Rome, I stopped at Big Lots and investigated a memory foam mattress topper. Opened the box and took a good sniff up close, and while the odor wasn't pleasant, it also wasn't a kind that I thought would bother me terribly, so I brought it home. It's been airing out in the back bedroom for about 24 hours now and the smell is still pretty strong. I've read that it will go away in a couple of days, so I just need to be patient until that happens. I did lie down on it, on the floor, and it felt pretty darned good.

I have a situation next spring where my two favorite teachers, Sayalay and Ayya Sobhana, are teaching consecutive retreats at Southern Dharma in April. I only know this because both of them have told me so, since SD hasn't yet released their 2013 schedule.  I can't possibly afford to go to both of them, maybe not even one of them, so I'm torn, but have decided to just let go of worrying about it for now, since many things will change by then. With any luck, Sayalay will also teach a class at Bhavana while she's in the States, but that has not yet been determined. I would certainly go to that one if it happens.

I'll also probably go to the year-end retreats at Bhavana again this year, unless snow interferes. That'll be a last-minute decision, no-doubt, but it's the best opportunity I've ever had to really practice the Dhamma, without a teacher or subject matter, and I'd like to take advantage of it again. Other than these, I have no plans for any other travels for the time being. Aside from a trip to Asheville to put in applications for some apartments, that is. I need to do that soon.

Somehow, I seem to have completely let go of any urgent drive to leave this house. It's not a conscious thing, just something that's happened on its own, most likely during the recent service period in Jesup, where I learned to happily let go of attachment to many things. I'll still need to leave eventually -- the roof or some other repair issue will eventually make the house uninhabitable -- but until then, I'll be content to stay.  On the other hand, I'd like to be in Asheville next April when Sayalay and Ayya Sobhana both arrive for their retreats -- I'd love to drive them out to SD, have an opportunity to see and speak with both of them again, even if I can't attend their retreats.

So, that's it for today, folks.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


I gotta tell you, I still haven't recovered fully from the past three weeks. Sleeping way more than usual, but still not resting. Thinking about a memory foam mattress topper, but reviews and ratings are all over the place online, and since I have a chemical-free house and am bothered by the scents in the laundry detergent aisle at the supermarket, I'm really reluctant to buy something that seems to inherently have a bad odor that may or may not go away. Alas. But, I digress.  The title promises Beaufort, so let's get at it.

I've been in love with the idea of Beaufort for countless years. So many books by Pat Conroy and Anne Rivers Siddons are set in the area, and their tales and descriptions made it seemed like the ideal place for me. I can't remember if I ever mentioned the idea of moving there anyplace on this blog, but when I first began thinking of coming back east, Beaufort was on top of the list. I did lots of research, but couldn't afford a real visit. In the end, I opted against it because I thought it couldn't possibly live up to my expectations, and because it just didn't seem wise to move sight-unseen. After this visit, I have to say that the reality lived up to every possible romanticized expectation I ever had. I'm a water gal, let's just face that. I like being on or near or in sight of water -- as in oceans and bays and such.

The approach road to Beaufort goes through rural areas and then, finally, up on a raised causeway that gives infinite views of water, sea grasses, old wooden docks, islands, and more water. To me, it was utterly breathtaking. I fell in love instantly. A few more of these causeways take you over other islands and you finally reach Beaufort. Since I had no maps or anything to guide me, and since it was too early for the visitor's center to be open, I followed the road across a lovely bridge to Lady's Island and then St. Helena Island.

When I passed this intriguing old ruin, I simply had to stop and take a closer look.

A close up of the walls, showing the old-style building material of this area, which I believe is referred to as 'tabby'. That could be a memory error, but as you can see it's mostly seashells and sand.
This is what the ruin is. I just love all that lovely moss hanging everywhere!
So, after I toured this site, I headed back to town where I found a parking lot at the city marina then headed out on a walking tour of the famous section of beautiful old homes, many of them with waterfront locations. I walked for an hour and a half, following the outer maze of streets that led to water. Lots of dead-end streets that end at the water, and all thankfully preserved for public use and view by the City of Beaufort.

This photo was actually taken on Lady's Island, not far from the bridge back to Beaufort, but it's so evocative of the area that I have to include it.

This is part of a beautiful park that fronts the river near the marina. The bridge to Lady's Island is in the rear.

Another view of the same bridge, from a smaller park across the highway, at the beginning of the residential area.
I believe this was from the same small park, looking in another direction.

One of the many beautiful homes fronting the river.

Another -- with an intriguing garden.

From the end of one dead-end street or another.
These long, wooden docks abound, and I loved them. Almost every waterfront home has one.
Yes, this is on the water too, but it's generally not possible to get a photo of both the house and the water view.
This canal ran from an 'inner' area of the residential section on out to the river.
You probably think I've gone overboard on the beautiful old houses, but the ones I'm showing are only a fraction of what's there. This one is not waterfront, but it's a beauty!

Some are so well hidden by landscaping that it's impossible to get a solid view with a camera, but then, the landscaping is so lush and beautiful that it's not hard to look at! This was waterfront, to the rear.
I know -- another dock. But they are such a big part of what makes this area so intriguing and picturesque, to me. Lots of crabbing and shrimping and fishing and just plain fun happens on these docks!
A prime example of fun, although you can barely see any people (intentionally, on my part). There was a large group gathering. Kids jumping into the water, big party apparently about to happen. Did I mention it was Labor Day? As I walked away from this, I met a couple headed in that direction hauling a cooler and other stuff on wheels. I said something about a fun day in the making, and they told me there were FIVE birthdays being celebrated.

Yep another dock. I couldn't get enough of the entire scene.
Back at the city park by the marina, I was captivated by the lush, colorful and beautiful flowers that thrive so well in this semi-tropical climate.

Because it was approaching noon, and because I planned to have lunch in Savannah, I reluctantly left Beaufort behind and didn't explore more than the immediate downtown area. In retrospect, I should have done just that because when I got to Savannah it seemed as if half the world had decided to visit. Traffic, hordes of cars and people everywhere and not a parking space to be found. After 11 days in the quite of the meditation center, and a day in the quiet peace of Beaufort, it was all too much for me so after giving up on a parking space, I drove on out to Tybee Island, which was unfortunately just more of the same. I'll take Beaufort any day!

I'm not sure how realistic it is for me to even think about moving there. I spoke at length to another retired woman who lives on social security (and a part-time job), and she told me I could make it, offered a name and phone number of a friend who runs a real estate office out on Lady's Island. I haven't called yet, although I suppose I should do that before making any final decision. Still -- while Beaufort has the water that speaks to my heart, it won't be much different from where I am now in many ways: still a long drive from Bhavana in West Virginia, still conservative politically, still not likely to have the Buddhist community I seek. Asheville is the most logical in terms of all of these -- and it has mountains and the Nantahala River. But there's no way around the fact that it has colder winters, often with snow and ice. Beaufort has a fabulous year-round climate. So, lots to consider, but I have lots of time to do all that consideration so no need to make any decisions now. I do expect to head up to Asheville in the next couple of weeks to look at some of the possible places to live, get my name on some waiting lists.

But for right now, I'm still content to be right where I am.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


As I sometimes do, I'm going to begin with conclusions before I tell the tale, because the conclusions are so much more important, more meaningful, than the mere tale itself.

First, while the entire saga was physically difficult for me, I am so utterly glad I went, and so grateful for the many changes I see within myself. I'm at peace. I'm content and equanimous even amidst the fatigue. I'm bothered by very little. Most of these changes were wrought during the past week of service, not during the 10 days of meditation. Some days I could feel the changes happening as I watched the process within myself. Yesterday, driving home and reviewing my time there as the miles passed by, I was shocked to actually realize that I felt love for myself, approval for myself. Of course, there is no self in Buddhism, but the warm feelings of love and approval arose, for the first time in my almost  70 years on this earth. That's no small thing, and it begins to heal an open wound that I've been aware of since my first Vipassana course almost 8 years ago. Being aware of the wound and closing the wound are two entirely different things. I can say with confidence that it's begun to close, and once begun, will hopefully continue to heal. That's big, people. Really big. Will all these changes last? It's hard to say. We're taught that everything changes, that nothing stays the same, and yet over these 8 years I've seen internal changes come and go as well as changes come and stay. I have a feeling that at least some of these changes -- perhaps the more major ones -- will stick around.

Secondly, I had the privilege to work with some of the most wonderful young people I've ever had the pleasure to meet, during this past week. Some of the changes in me are definitely a reflection of them, of the effect they had on me. Two of them were there from the beginning to the end -- Sam and Sarah, both of whom drove down from Pennsylvania just to serve for this week when they learned the center was in serious need of servers for the course. Both have been long-term servers here in the past.  Sam is an inspired cook who has a way with spices I can only envy. He's quiet, but as the days passed and we all got to know one another he opened up considerably. Sarah is just the opposite -- brimming full of bubbly joy, chatter and compassionate thoughtfulness and goodness. We had numerous good conversations since we had to spend our meal times secluded in the women's dorm. Both are young (young enough to be my grandchildren!) I now have another adopted granddaughter (Sherene at Aranya Bodhi was the first and she, too, is a Goenka student). I am just plain honored to know all of them. A couple of other young women came to help for a couple of days at a time, and they were lifesavers as well as also being fine and admirable youngsters. It's interesting, but I had the same reaction to these youngsters as I had to the young people I met at the Goenka retreat center in Onalaska,  WA every time I visited there. That conclusion is that if these young people are the future of this country, then we're in good hands. I can only hope the older generations will not destroy everything before these kids are old enough to be the majority, to change the general tenor for the  better.

I left early, because I was exhausted -- drained. Still, I'd been tired for several days and had held out because I couldn't desert these kids, couldn't leave them to do it all themselves, although I believe they could and would have made it happen. Looking back as I drove home, I realized that when I went back into the kitchen at 9 am after the morning sit and looked at the planning board, I saw that the majority of the work was over. Very few things needed to be done. We were finished with prep for future days because the next day is traditionally mostly leftovers, and everyone leaves early the day after that, with no food to be prepared. Reinforcements had also arrived the night before. Sam and Sarah suggested I sit out the morning, or even the rest of the course, so for awhile I sat on a stool and chattered (I do that when I'm tired). Then I went to my cabin to lie down and while I was there, realized I just really wanted to go home and sleep and rest. If I stayed, I'd still have the schedule to follow [three daily sits plus the 9pm meeting] and wouldn't get much sleep. And I needed to leave soon in order to beat Atlanta commute traffic, so I got up and started packing what little I had in the cabin, then walked next door to the office and told the management that I was leaving. They were supportive, concerned, because they understand how tired I've been. I got the car packed, had a last lunch with them and headed out. Had reinforcements not arrived I would somehow  have held out another couple of days, but I knew 'my kids' were going to be OK, going to have energetic help to finish these final two days, and it was OK for me to leave. MamaCat [me], who that day had turned into GrandmamaCat due to fatigue, sadly said goodbye. But I'll never forget them.

As for the rest of the story -- the 10-day retreat was surprisingly easy from a physical standpoint. A few creaks and squeaks from the old body here and there, but nothing major. Also surprisingly, no emotions came up needing to be dealt with. Mostly, I was just bored. I could get into the program here and there, even had some surprising and interesting results on a couple of sits, but all in all, I once again proved that this is not a technique I can get into on a full-time basis. For me, it's a tool, and a good one, but not a sole system of meditation. I had a great roommate and the only issues spun around the need for 30 women to share 4 bathrooms. Even those were minor. I met some super women, at least one of whom I hope to stay in touch with.

The fatigue began when the course officially ended around 7am on the second Sunday. At that point I became a server, rather than a student. I scrubbed down the bathroom I'd volunteered to clean, then ended up doing lots more cleaning in the dorm. I moved to the servers dorm and spent the better part of the day cleaning and doing laundry. Piles and piles of laundry: towels, sheets, cushion covers from the meditation hall, all kinds of things, in great quantities. Monday morning at 6am (having been accustomed to awaken at 4am) I crept out of the dorm and headed to Beaufort. I ended up spending that day driving so while it was exhilarating in some ways, it added to the fatigue. The next couple of days were spent helping prepare the center for the next course scheduled to begin on Wednesday. I never realized just how much work goes into the turnaround between courses! But, I got the laundry done, the men got lots of landscaping done, and by Wednesday (day 0) the place turned into a madhouse as local people showed up to help get the cooking started for the week, and for the evening meal. After that, it was full steam ahead until yesterday morning. I think my fatigue stemmed from a lopsided ratio of sleep to energy expenditure. The youngsters can sleep easily, during the long afternoon rest period. I couldn't. I could lie down and rest, but not sleep. We had a meeting with the teacher in the meditation hall each evening at 9pm after the evening meditation is over, so I couldn't get to bed early enough to recoup from pushing hard every day.

And speaking of sleep -- it's that time. See y'all another day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Home again...

I think this is the longest I've been gone from home in one stretch in many a long year.  I have to tell you, it feels really, really good to be home in this funky little house in its funky neighborhood.

I had a great time, really glad I went, and I finally made it to BEAUFORT, and fell just as much in love with reality as I have been for so many years with a romanticized idea (thanks to Pat Conroy, Anne Rivers Siddons and Lew Decker). I would move there tomorrow, given the opportunity. Photos and details to come!

But -- I left the center in Jesup today just before noon, arrived home about six hours later after only two quick stops. I was exhausted when I left there, and while my body is all keyed up from the drive, I'm pooped. I made the requisite stop at Kroger for the requisites of life: rotisserie chicken, milk, and red wine. All else can wait until tomorrow. Or the next day.

Glad to see that the relentless heat of summer has fled and the wonderful temperate days/nights of fall are with us. Oddly enough, south Georgia was actually very pleasant, aside from the mosquitoes. I'd expected higher heat, higher humidity. I loved the stars and milky way as I walked to the dhamma hall each evening at 9pm for the server's meeting. And the crescent moon and stars each morning as I walked to the kitchen.

On my second glass of red in an effort to help the body chill. So far, not much is happening in that regard.

Stories and photos [of Beaufort] to come. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I'll see you in September....

Good morning, y'all!

I see that some of you are anxious, wondering if I'm OK, since I've been quiet. The answer is, yes, I am just fine. It's merely been quiet around here, not much to write about. I've been enjoying the continuing cool weather, doing my exercise thing at Curves daily, and reading a lot. Too much.

I've been slowly making preparations for my upcoming visit to the Vipassana Center in South Georgia -- although I honestly haven't done much. Plotted out the route on a map, mostly thought about what to take and things to do before I leave. Need to get a little more serious about that over the weekend.

Also did a little gardening (weed control), and plan to do a little more this weekend. I've decided to do another winter greens bed, so I've pulled stuff from that bed, need to add some good nutrients to it before I leave so they can get into the soil. Don't know if I'll get around to digging the remaining bed -- I did use big clippers and cut off the tops of all the weeds down to the chicken wire level. It was a start. Somehow, I can't seem to dredge up the enthusiasm for maintaining the garden any more -- much like the rest of the house.

And so -- I leave Wednesday morning, won't be back until mid-September, won't be taking a computer with me, no updates here until I return. Be well, y'all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This and That

A friend of mine is writing a book that all of us can make good use of (especially those of us who are over 50). It's called Brain Vitality, and the basis is that all of us can grow new brain cells and keep our brains functioning well as we age. Ann uses exercise -- mostly on the mild side and suitable for all ages -- and lifestyle choices to accomplish this. I've already added her hint about crossover exercise (crossing the midline to trigger left/right brain communication) to my own daily exercise routine. Ann has been a yoga teacher for many years, is a good writer, and also a great example of practicing what you preach, so I expect the book to be a valuable addition to my own library. She's also donating many of them to good causes, for the benefit of people who can be helped by what's taught in the book.You can get more info, and pre-order the book if you wish, here.

Our cool weather continues, with thunderstorms rumbling through around 3:30 am and good rains yesterday afternoon. Weather radar shows more headed this way from Alabama. It's unimaginable to have several nights in a row of 67 degree lows in August here -- but I'm not complaining. Well, being me I do complain because the house is actually cooler than I like, so I'm in a sweatshirt, and sit with a light throw over my legs when I read, but it's not serious complaining. Much prefer this to 105! I've noted before that this is a cold house -- very hard to keep warm in the winter, but that's what makes it reasonably comfortable to live in it without AC in the summer, too. It's cooled off quite nicely over these past days and the pattern is forecast to continue through the week, at least. Weird, but pleasant.

I'm starting to think about packing and other preparations for my next trip -- I drive off a week from tomorrow, headed to Jesup, in south Georgia, for three weeks. I'll be visiting the Southeast Vipassana Center, where I'll sit a 10-day course, then stay on to serve (work in the kitchen) the following course. I'm gonna be curious to see how much difference there'll be between this course and my first one, over 7 years ago. That one was pure torture, physically and mentally, but I've done a lot of sitting since then and learned a lot, so I expect (hope!) that this one won't be so bad. If you wonder why I want to go if it was that bad, it's because despite the discomfort it was a great experience and I learned a lot. I should learn even more this time, and these centers and courses are one of the few places I know of where one can isolate oneself in total silence for such a long time. Most meditation retreats are silent, but most places also don't enforce that rule. The Vipassana centers enforce it strongly -- we're not even supposed to have eye contact with another person because that's communication of a sort, and communication of any kind is not allowed. Sounds harsh, but that's what makes it work.

Later, y'all.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Garden fresh pasta sauce

This was the perfect, cool day I've been waiting for in order to make my red sauce -- which involves lots of steaming water for scalding the tomatoes, then an all day simmer. Not something I'd choose to do on a normal August day around here.

Fresh, ripe Roma tomatoes from the garden, washed and waiting to be scalded, then peeled.

Peeled, rough-chopped, ready to cook. Juices already flowing.

Fresh basil, garlic and onion -- also from the garden.

Onions and garlic sauteed together.

Basil added without chopping.

Let it cook all day -- and you have Mama Nina's famous red sauce.
I learned to make this sauce way back in the day when I did a year-long stint as line cook at Mama Nina's, a northern Italian restaurant in Yountville, Napa Valley. I only had one day per week when I did set-up -- meaning I worked all day, made all the necessary sauces including this one. The rest of the time I worked evenings only, which was great for me. We used canned tomatoes, but other than that the process and recipe are the same. I may go a little heavier on garlic and basil than we did then, but since we made it daily in a huge pot, it's really hard to compare proportions (not to mention hard to remember!). It tastes right, which means really, really good. We used this mostly on pasta, but also for layering lasagna.

So now I have a good supply -- after an overnight chill, I'll pack it into small canning jars and put it in the freezer, for individual use over the winter. I expect that some of it will not make it quite that long. The best part is that literally everything aside from salt and coconut oil came from my garden. I love it even more because of that.


I had some bad news last night -- an email from my daughter-in-law telling me that my son's father, my first husband, died Friday night. So what, you might ask. After all, we've been divorced for nearly 50 years. But we'd remained friends of a sort, staying in touch, talking from time to time and he visited a couple of times when I lived in Napa, when he was traveling on business in the area. He was a good man -- not his fault he was saddled with a child bride. The issues in our marriage were mine, as I am the first to admit. I'm the one who wanted out. Still, there remained a bond of some sort between us. He was about 5 years older than me, as I recall, and since I haven't heard from him in a couple of years, I didn't know he'd been ill or anything about his health issues. This is the first of my contemporaries -- people I actually know -- who have died in old age, so it's a milestone of sorts. Not a particularly pleasant one, but a milestone nonetheless.

Friday, August 10, 2012

All is well

It's cool enough this morning that I had to use my meditation shawl while I sat, and that's a really, really good thing.  A little odd for August in the deep south, but apparently the beginning of a trend that's due to last for several days, which is also a really, really good thing.  Unlike so much of the country, we have not suffered from a drought this summer. Oh, I expect our annual rainfall is lower than normal, but still -- I was told that it rained every afternoon while I was in California, and it's rained almost every day since I've been back. Not big gullywashers, but good rain. Hence the jungle that used to be my garden. Rain always brings cooler weather, at least for the duration of the rain. After the rain moves on, it can turn into a steam bath, but the storm fronts moving across this part of the country yesterday were large enough to take hours in their slow progress. Not always rain, but good cloud cover that kept the sun's heat at bay.

One of my chores over these cooler days will be to peel the big bunch of plum tomatoes I've been gathering and storing in the fridge, then make some good red pasta sauce for the freezer.  Peeling the tomatoes requires lots of boiling water, which isn't too appealing when it's already hot in the house. But I sure do enjoy that red sauce during the winter.

It's been a quiet week around here, which is why I've also been quiet. Hasn't been much to talk about and, in fact, I've about run out of what there is to say. All is well.

Be well.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A fine discovery for the bakers among us

I was trolling tonight looking for something to watch, and my eye caught "Baking With Julia" on the menu list. I quickly went to the site and yes, indeed, PBS has resurrected all of those wonderful episodes that I enjoyed many years ago when they first ran! I felt like I'd discovered a treasure, as indeed I had. Apparently, they've been brought back in celebration of her birthday. Thank you, PBS!

I had the accompanying book, which I used with great frequency, but like so many things it went the way of a used book store about 8 years ago when I thought I was going to sail around the world (or somewhere) on a sailboat. Alas. I did keep the recipes I used the most, but like so many others that had the same end, wish I had it still.

If you enjoy baking, be sure to watch some or all of these episodes, which feature different bakers in Julia Child's kitchen, teaching how to make their specialties. I've had an overload of episodes for the moment, but there are still plenty left for another day. Or two. There are also several of Julia's other shows listed on the menu -- I just hope they leave them up long enough for me to watch them.

And of course, I'm hungry now!